Leonard explained the patient he had to her, and Hannah listened. From time to time she nodded, but she never interrupted and didn’t ask questions. Only when he’d finished speaking did she finally speak back to him.
“Matson is right,” she said. “Your patient will be here for a different reason to the others, and while I don’t have a problem with that, I think they might.”
“Who are they?”
“The other patients,” said Hannah. “Matson hasn’t quite told you everything about the Silver Carillon. It steals senses, just as he says, but we’re certain now that it does so by creating a copy of the patient in a pocket dimension somewhere. Each time they lose a sense it’s transferred to the copy of them living in this pocket dimension, and the final chime is when they transfer over there completely. Then there’s nothing really living left in this world, just the body they were inhabiting while they were here, and that’s now vacant.”
“So you keep it alive while you search for a way to bring them back?” asked Leonard, though he wasn’t really listening to the answer. It was obvious how the hospice worked.
“No,” said Hannah. “We destroy the body. There are other things out there,” she waved a hand heavenwards as vague as though she were describing the general cloud formations. “That would like to take up residency in a body in this time. We can’t take those kinds of risks, especially not with the scholars of the Silver Carillon. They generally know things that it would be better not to let get out.”
“Destroy?” Leonard looked shocked, finding it hard to believe that he’d heard what she said properly.
“Yes, we usually incinerate it. There’s a bio-waste facility in the basement; it’s part of the tour if you’d like to take it.”
“It is necessary, Leonard.” She emphasised his name. “Losing a mind is an easy thing to do. If we find a way to bring my scholars back, then finding bodies for them to inhabit will be the easy part.”
They sat in silence for a moment, and Leonard looked around the room while his mind raced with the implications of what he’d just heard. This hospice actively killed people when they reached what they considered a terminal stage. Was that illegal, or just unethical? He noticed a pile of magazines on an occasional table and wondered if there was a trade journal for euthanasia.
“Until they reach that stage,” said Hannah, breaking the silence at last, and trying to make eye contact. Leonard let his gaze slide back to the magazines. “The other patients appear to know about each other in this pocket dimension. We think that they must situated together, and as their senses transfer over they see more and more of each other, but it becomes harder and harder for us to talk to them and reach them. Your patient won’t be in that world with them, so he won’t make the same connection, and they’ll know he’s different. That might cause problems.”
“You mean they won’t like him? You make this sound like trying to keep dogs who’ve not met before together.”
“It kind of is,” said Hannah, and there was a sudden gentleness in her voice. “These are very sick people, Leonard, who are undergoing a profoundly difficult transition. It might even be a lethal one. But they are, to some extent, doing it together. Putting a man in with them who isn’t part of that might not be good for him, might not be good for them. Is that a chance we can take?”
Leonard sat there, shaking his head. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I need to know enough about this place to make that decision though. I think it’s mine to make.”
“I don’t think anyone will want to take it off you,” said Hannah. She stood up. “Shall we begin the tour then?”